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Police sergeant, firefighter, nurse among 24 alleged child predators arrested in sting operation

Posted: 4:57 PM, Sep 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-18 20:59:39Z

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — Authorities in New Jersey say that a police sergeant, a firefighter and a nurse were among the 24 arrested in a sting targeting alleged child predators.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced the arrests on Tuesday as a part of “Operation Open House,” a multi-agency undercover operation targeting men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity. However, the underage children they were speaking to were actually undercover officers.

Most of the individuals were arrested when they arrived at a house in Toms River, N.J., where they expected to find the children home alone. Instead, they found dozens of law enforcement officers prepared to arrest them and process any evidence seized, the attorney general said.

“It is a frightening reality that sexual predators are lurking on social media, ready to strike if they find a child who is vulnerable,” said Attorney General Grewal. “To counter that threat, we are working collaboratively and aggressively across all levels of law enforcement to apprehend these sex offenders. We want child predators to know that we are on social media too – and the child they target may be the undercover officer who puts them in handcuffs. That is the message of Operation Open House.”

Among those arrested was Howell Township, N.J., police sergeant, Richard Conte, 47, who allegedly attempted to meet a person he believed to be a 15-year-old girl for sex. The attorney general says he claimed he was 19 in the online chats and had condoms in his pocket when he was arrested.

“It is disturbing that some of the alleged child predators from this operation held positions of public service and authority, but behind closed doors they went through great lengths to avoid detection online, frequenting social media sites with the sole purpose of targeting unsuspecting children,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “Our troopers and partners on the ICAC Task Force are unfazed by the outward appearances of sex offenders and will continue to turn the tables on predators by luring them out of hiding and bringing them to justice. These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child’s online activity.”

The arrests were made over a five-day period from September 5 through September 9. All 24 defendants are charged with second-degree luring. Many defendants face additional charges, including second-degree attempted sexual assault on a minor and third-degree attempted debauching the morals of a child. Five men face third-degree charges of attempted sharing obscene materials with a child for allegedly sending photos of their genitals to undercover detectives.

“Parents need to be aware of their children’s activities on the internet, and if children appear anxious or evasive when this topic is raised, it may be a red flag,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It is critical that parents talk to their children about social media and chat apps to let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seem to be.”

The following 24 men were arrested in Operation Open House:

  1. Mina G. Beshay, 27, of Monroe Township, N.J. (Girl, 15) Beshay is a security guard. Additional charges: Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).
  2. Christopher Vargas, 29, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Vargas is a registered nurse.
  3. Joshua Rauter, 31, of Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Girl, 14) Rauter is a municipal public works employee. Additional charges: Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).
  4. Joseph Martin, 35, of Seaside Heights, N.J. (Girl, 14) Martin is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  5. Richard Hoffman, 23, of Mays Landing, N.J. (Girl, 14) Hoffman is a firefighter and a college student.
  6. Volvi Lowinger, 23, of Lakewood, N.J. (Girl, 15) Lowinger is a college student. Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree), Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).
  7. Thomas Graciano, 28, of Brick, N.J. (Boy, 15) Graciano is a physical therapist in a retirement community.
  8. Thomas Blumensteel, 47, of Manchester, N.J. (Boy, 15) Blumensteel is a hotel manager and a registered sex offender. He was sentenced to three years in New Jersey State Prison in 1997 for aggravated criminal sexual contact for sexually assaulting a boy, 13, whom he was supervising as a church counselor. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  9. Richard Conte, 47, of Farmingdale, N.J. (Girl, 15) Conte is a police sergeant with the Howell Township Police Department.
  10. Thomas Fuller, 44, Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Fuller is an assistant manager/sterilization technician. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  11.  Zachary Vincent, 24, of Forked River, N.J. (Girl, 15) Vincent is a landscaper. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  12. William Singleton, 24, of Pemberton Township, N.J. (Girl, 14) Singleton is a restaurant worker. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  13. Jonathan Vece, 22, of Turnersville, N.J. (Girl, 14) Vece is a canvasser. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  14. Lawrence Ivancic, 51, of Toms River, N.J. (Girl, 14) Ivancic is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  15. Robert Lisicki, 51, of Metuchen, N.J. (Boy, 15) Lisicki is a train conductor. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  16. Dylan Daffron, 28, of Lacey Township, N.J. (Boy, 15) Daffron is a cashier at a retail store. Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree), Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).
  17. Steven Portnoy, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Girl, 15) Pornoy is unemployed. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  18. David Studnicky, 64, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Studnicky is employed as a dry cleaner. Additional charges: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree), Attempted Debauching Morals of a Child (3rd degree), Attempted Showing Obscene Material to a Minor (3rd degree).
  19. Anthony Perfidio, 24, of Barnegat, N.J. (Boy, 15) Perfidio is a data entry clerk.
  20. Brian Degnan, 33, of Toms River, N.J. (Boy, 15) Degnan is a data entry clerk.
  21. Nabindranauth Nandalall, 24, of Bronx, N.Y. (Girl, 15) Nandalall is unemployed.
  22. William D. Davis, 23, Bayville, N.J. (Girl, 15) Davis is a consultant.
  23. Charles Schlottfeld, 26, of Bayville, N.J. (Girl, 14) Schlottfeld is a mechanic. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree).
  24. Douglass Walton, 54, of Hillsborough, N.J. (Boy, 14) Walton is employed in produce. Additional charge: Attempted Sexual Assault on a Minor (2nd degree)